Cambridge Journal: Days 20 & 21

OK folks, today is going to be another large picture dump, so prepare your eyeballs. Friday I woke up late and rushed down to breakfast, crammed some toast and a croissant down my gullet and jumped in the taxi to the train station. But this time I had a suit jacket (£5 at a thrift store) and had learned how to tie a half-windsor knot instead of the four-in-hand for my tie. One day I will memorize the full windsor, but that’s neither here nor there. At the train station I supplemented my breakfast with a chocolate muffin that wasn’t great, and then stuck in my earbuds, put on my sunglasses and dozed for the ride into King’s X. My friend Mike has a lovely picture of that too. I’m twice as handsome when I’m drooling with my head against a train window, but I don’t have the picture off him yet, so you’ll just have to imagine.

We assembled on the platform, and due to some confusion from our wrangler we watched the Circle Line go by us, then got on the Metropolitan, got off again and then finally caught another Circle Line train. Nobody believed me when I asserted the trains were color coded, but that’s all behind us now. We finally got to Temple station and came up, and walking up the street I saw a very strange parking area for motorbikes:

Right in the middle of the bloody street. Now this is an area of town with space issues. Then we come up on our destination, the Royal Courts, and it’s  very impressive building.

We gathered outside for another group photo, and even though it’s the wrong color and a little big for me, I was glad I did have a suit jacket to wear this day.

Left to right that’s Caroline (from Cincinnati, the only non-KU student), …terrible with names, Ariel, ..again…, Tyler, Mike, Kevin, Jenna, Joe, Maggie, Jason, Me and Grant. I will fix the names I’m not sure of later, I don’t want to guess and be wrong, and I know it looks bad there’s two people whose names I’m not sure of but there it is. I’ll fix it later. Inside the Royal Courts we were taken to a court room and given a lecture on the building’s history and an overview of the court room itself and how the modern Royal Courts work by a very nice man, who then showed us around the building. Afterward we went as a group to a famous pub and had a lunch that was unfortunately not picked up by the University.

That’s Mike posing underneath a large dragon statue outside of the Old Bank of England Pub after lunch. Here the group broke apart and everyone headed in different directions. Some folks were going out into the country, others out of the country, and a couple of us were heading back to Cambridge after some sightseeing in London. I had arranged to meet a fellow Asatruar from London at the British Museum, and I had about three hours before then to look around the museum. And let me tell you, it would be easy to spend three days in that place!

I’m going to try and keep the pictures from inside the museum sorted by theme, but it might not work out as there are a lot of them.

One of a pair, actually, but the other one looked just like it only reversed.

I believe the lion above and the doors here were Assyrian, but I’m not entirely certain of that.

This was in a “religion and spirituality” section that I unfortunately didn’t get to see but maybe half of because I ran out of time. If I’m not mistaken, this is Pazzuzu, a Sumerian (Assyrian?) “storm god” of some kind.

This was just a small part of a large wall of reliefs. I chose to photograph this part because I liked the details of the animals and the dramatic action.

The ancient Indians really knew how to party. I wanted to take pictures of more of the Indian stuff, but I was afraid people would think I was some sort of strange fetishist…

Though I did feel comfortable taking a picture of this one, there was this totally rocking statue right behind me that I didn’t. Like I said, the ancient Indians knew a thing or two about making religion interesting…

Moving on to another group of people who knew how to throw a sexy party, I mean have deeply spiritual religious services, here is a shrine to the Nereids. For the sake of brevity, if not levity, I’m going to throw the Roman and Greek pictures in the same lot.

A very large dog statue. Huge, but friendly looking.

I really liked this horse fragment. I have a picture of the horse by itself up close, but thought I would share the one with the other tourists in it to give you a better idea of this thing’s size. That girl was maybe 5 feet tall, so you can see how large the horse is.

There was a series of busts of Greek philosophers. Aristotle and the others weren’t there, so the only one I recognized by his name card was the hemlock guzzling chump.

Part of the Parthenon exhibit. Apparently the British Museum has all kinds of pieces of the Parthenon that the Greeks want back, but the British Museum won’t give to them. You might think, “that’s pretty arrogant of them,” but if you look at the history of the thing it makes sense. The Parthenon was used as a Byzantine church at one point, whereupon the Christians destroyed a lot of it to defile the pagan gods aspect of it, the Muslims built a mosque inside of it when they took over the Byzantine empire, then the French invaded and tried to rescue/loot the remaining antiquities, breaking much of them in the process, a fire and an explosion happened at some point because the Muslims were keeping munitions stored in a part of it, then the Greeks gained independence and destroyed the mosque and threw out anything that wasn’t Greek. At some point the British made off with some of the neater parts, convinced that if they didn’t there wouldn’t be anything left to study in the future, and so the situation remains today. The British may have had a point, what with the socialists and EU growing pains causing all kinds of mayhem this summer.

A close-up of one of the reliefs from the Parthenon. I think these would have gone around the top of the outside, if I remember correctly.

I don’t remember which Greco-Roman goddesses these were, but I’m thinking one of them was Demeter?

Random bull carving, region and time period I can’t remember, but I’m sure it was a “pre-history” thing.

These brooches, if I’m not mistaken, were from the Celtic room. Which is a perfect segue from Roman stuff.

Very cool Celtic shield. Celts were Iron Age, but I think all the shields were bronze like this.

I’m pretty sure this is a Roman representation of a Celt.

Celtic torcs, an original form of transportable wealth.

More Celtic torcs.

Crazy Gaulish boobie-helmet.

These are interesting votive figures. Interesting because they demonstrate Roman syncretism. These are Roman deities with traits of Celtic deities. Or Celtic deities with traits of Roman deities, perhaps. If you’re thinking of googling “syncretism”, I’ll save you the time: basically the Roman way of thinking was to go somewhere and say, “the locals honor Mercury as the chief god over Jupiter” because they listened to the locals describe their deities, and then figured, “well, this god of theirs has these characteristics, and that sounds like Mercury to me” instead of conceptualizing them as two different sets of gods. In short, they figured there was only the Roman pantheon of deities and all the other people in the world were worshiping the exact same deities as they were, just in a different way. This is one reason that the Romans were sort of beside themselves when dealing with the monotheists of the Middle East.

I think this jumble of bits was from the Norse collection. Moving from Celtic to Norse is another good segue, so away we go!

These I’m positive were from the Norse room.

I think these were actually from the Medieval room, but Norse folk do love giant horns, so I’ll throw them in here.

Dragon prow from a Norse ship.

While I like the fact the knight has moved in a legal way, I would have arranged the board to make it look like the missing pieces had been removed due to being lost in a game.

Fylfot/Swastika brooches. Get you some education on so-called “symbols of hate” while you read my blog…

A Norse barrel. Maybe from Sutton Hoo, as there was a lot of Sutton Hoo stuff nearby when I took this picture.

The famous Sutton Hoo helmet.

Sutton Hoo shield.

The British Museum was very, very crowded. There were some things I could hardly even get to look at because so many people were just pushed up around them. Like the Rosetta Stone. As far as the Rosetta Stone goes, I did manage to come around the backside and squeeze my head around to get a look at it, but the crowd mobbing it was just crazy, let me tell you.

This was a very large Buddha statue. I’m guessing the hands are missing because they would have been interchangeable so as to put different mudras on him, and somehow they got misplaced when the British looted this from wherever they found it.

Chinese folk religion statuettes. I really liked the votive statuettes from all over the world, but didn’t get pictures of most of them.

More of the Chinese ones, though.

As a JSA practitioner you just knew I’d get a picture of some Samurai war gear, didn’t you?

The British Museum didn’t really have much “pop art” to speak of, but this was part of the Japanese room. I suspect it was more to do with the fact the current installation was about printed art throughout Japan’s history than anything else, but it was still weird to see manga style art in the British Museum.

Some contemporary ceramics. This was over near the Asian rooms, so I’m not sure if these are just generally contemporary ceramics or the contemporary ceramics of Asia, but they were neat so here they are.

Some more.

And some more. The room was large and I was in a hurry due to the time, so I quickly snapped what I thought were the three neatest displays.

Around 1630 I regretfully pulled myself away from the museum to go out and meet with my Asatruar contact out front. Despite the mad crowds and the fact I was rapidly dehydrating I would’ve liked to have stayed much longer. So I walked out, bought myself a Fanta and looked about. This was not a very good plan I had hatched. I refer you to the picture above of the front of the museum. Go ahead, go back and look at it. Now imagine this: take the number of people you see in that photo and multiply it by three. Maybe even five. There were a lot of people outside when I came out. I milled around for a bit, looking for someone who I didn’t know what they looked like. Then I had a little adventure trying to get a British payphone to work. After several attempts and a call to the operator, I managed to get the number dialed correctly. Who knew something as simple as a phone call could be complicated just by being in another country? Of course the provider couldn’t put the call through anyway, as it turns out by friend was down in the Tube at the time and out of service range.

So yes, we did meet up, but not before I stressed over it for a while. I sat in the courtyard watching pigeons fight over a crust of bread for w awhile, then decided to walk down to the river and look for the bridge from my mysterious dream. If I haven’t told you about that yet, don’t worry, because right as I was leaving to go find the thing I saw a man standing there looking around. And wearing a large Mjolnir pendant outside his shirt! My ill-conceived plan had actually worked!

Paul and I chatted for a bit, then we headed to a part of London that he assured me was the happening area. I just looked it up to confirm it, and it was Covent Garden. Here is a photo from Wikipedia that just happens to show the bar we ended up at, the Punch&Judy, the white building in the middle. We started in the basement and ended up on the balcony overlooking the street performing.

In the interest of copyright, I will tell you this photograph was taken by David Iliff, and: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License. In short: you are free to share and make derivative works of the file under the conditions that you appropriately attribute it, and that you distribute it only under a license identical to this one. Official license

Now that’s out of the way, a shot of Paul and I down in the basement sharing some good Heathen frith, copyright myself and taken with my mobile by a friendly stranger:

Note that the metatext for the image is wrong. The Bok Bar is where we ended up after this, a South Afrikaaner bar that had Rugby League on the television and a rowdy but friendly group of patrons inside. From there we headed to a different bar, that was packed with very friendly Londoners. At both the Punch&Judy and the third pub we went to we ended up in friendly conversation with locals. The people were very fun to talk to, and the atmosphere was great. The last place had a live band that was pretty good, and the music was fun singalong pop music from the 80’s til now.

Oh, and because I forgot it earlier, here is a restaurant I saw on the way to Covent Garden:

If we hadn’t stopped for cold drinks at a place just a few minutes before I would have insisted we go in here, just on principle. But a photo is good too.

After “a cheeky few” (as my friend Johnny said of the adventure) it’s good that in London you don’t have to drive home. As long as you can motivate yourself through the Tubes and onto the right platform at King’s X, you’re OK. Oh, and walking clear across bloody town once you get back isn’t all that grand, but the late night snack from the Trailer of Life, which makes the best bacon cheese burgers in the world, will make you feel better even after all that. I haven’t been everywhere in the world, or even many places in the world, but I am already prepared to call this as true.

Today I slept in late, and was woken up by this:We get yelled at for a spontaneous game of football of less than a dozen people, but the Japanese students have a game of whoknowswhat that was organized, very loud, and lasted too long for me to get back to sleep. The world is totally unfair. Plus I just wanted to sleep…

But I went out and walked to the train station today to get my train tickets for my return trip. It’s coming up really fast! By this Friday afternoon I will be back in Kansas. Totally weird, because I love it here and want to stay, but I also can’t wait to get home. I miss everyone very much! And also this place has no decent peanut butter.

But they do have this:

Dandelion flavored soda. It actually kind of tastes like banana flavored Laffy Taffy. I had to try it before I left, or I just wouldn’t have forgiven myself. It’s not bad, it’s just not all that great, though it is much better than their “fiery hot ginger beer” I tried last week. I will stick to Dr. Pepper, thank you. Also, and this is strange if you think about it too much, in the United States almost everything is sugared with corn syrup. It’s something to do with the Department of Agriculture, American Corn lobbyists and the Nixon administration, I don’t know. But anywhere else in the world they use real sugar. So all the soda tastes different, and the more I drink it the more I’m convinced it’s better with real sugar. The Dandelion & Burdock soda, obviously, has neither sugar nor corn syrup added to it. Oh, and burdock is some kind of weed, the kind that attaches “sticker seeds” all over your clothes and shoelaces when you walk through a field. Not what you’d expect to make a soda drink from, but some English fellow said, “why not?” and there you have it.

And now I’m tired and am going to read for a bit before going to bed.

Reviresco!

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